On a D3 scene where parity has been in fairly short supply in 2016, the MASCAC stands out. Salem took up their usual spot at the top of the standings, MMA and Fitchburg put up their best league marks in years to finish 2nd and 3rd; Bridgewater had its best year since 2013 to return to the playoffs after 2015; and Worcester, 2014 champions and 21-7 over the last two years, missed the field entirely. It’s in character for a league in which five different teams have finished atop the regular-season standings since 2011. More on the history, pennant race, and all six participants after the jump.
I’ve gotta say, I really wish the weather were cooperating for this weekend, because the schedule is absolutely loaded. The defending CWS champions will pay a visit to New England (something that hasn’t happened in decades), and Hartford, Rhode Island, and Northeastern host big D1 series as well. In D2, Franklin Pierce and Southern New Hampshire, who’re both in the top 5 nationally now, will celebrate the honor with five home games apiece. And it’s rivalry weekend in D3. Williams and Amherst renew the oldest rivalry in college baseball, and Babson-Wheaton, Suffolk-Saint Joseph’s, and Bowdoin-Bates will also be on display. Bottom line: if you’re willing to layer up, you won’t need to travel far for some great baseball this weekend. Continue reading
April. April! Everyone’s back from Florida, and the games that matter are starting up in earnest, so naturally, we’re looking at 30s and gale-force winds for Sunday. On the bright side, Friday and Saturday will be warm, and there’s plenty of good baseball around to keep the blood flowing. Click on for a region-by-region preview that takes you from Bridgeport to Bangor and just about everywhere in between.
So we’re going to try something new with our weekend previews. Instead of going division-by-division, league-by-league like before, I’m going to break things down by region. The idea is to give people an idea of the best games on offer in their own backyards. Every week, I’ll pick the can’t-miss series from every corner of New England and talk about the narratives, players, and implications surrounding each of them. As I’ve written elsewhere, you’d have plenty of reasons to get yourself to a park even if we weren’t expecting sunshine this weekend. So thanks for clicking, enjoy the post, and if you won’t already be playing in one, get out and see a game.
So, now that everything’s cooled off a bit, let’s take a look at the selection committees’ work before we start getting excited for these regionals to kick off. I’ll discuss the at-large decisions, travel arrangements, and tournament format as a Q&A. If there are any questions/issues I don’t address that you’d like me to, let me know, and I’ll add to the post. None of what I say is an endorsement of the committee’s decisions, I’m just trying to explain them.
Some conferences see the same one or two teams contending for the tournament title year after year. The MASCAC isn’t one of them. In 14 years of conference tournaments, only one program has managed to repeat. That was Bridgewater, who did the deed in both 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. It’s a testament to the league’s parity that the Bears didn’t even make this year’s tournament. We also saw a three-way tie for first and a race for the final playoff spot that came down to the final weekend. Add that to the storyline of Bob Corradi’s title-winning sendoff at Mass Maritime, and you’re looking at one of the most compelling conference tournaments in New England.
We’ve turned the calendar to April, and it feels like the conference standings are starting to settle out. We’re a couple weekends into league play in Division I, and New England teams sit atop the standings in the MAAC, NEC, and Patriot League. In Divisions II and III, some teams have gotten some separation in the early going. Franklin Pierce’s 27-2 start has powered it to a 7-1 divisional mark, and they swept one of their direct rivals this weekend. Every one of the Division III conferences has seen a team race off to a perfect start so far. Husson in the NAC (10-0), Endicott in the CCC (8-0), Saint Joseph’s in the GNAC (6-0), Mitchell (6-0) and Becker (5-0) in the NECC, MIT in the NEWMAC (5-0), Western Connecticut in the LEC (4-0), Amherst (3-0) and Wesleyan (3-0) in the NESCAC, and Salem State in the MASCAC (2-0). It’s still early, of course, but in all three divisions, New England teams have set the bar high for the rest of the teams in their conferences.